Local German officials have rejected a bid to expel former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder from the ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD).
SPD members have sought to remove Schröder over his close ties to Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But an arbitration committee of the SPD branch in Hannover ruled on Monday that his actions do not violate the party's rules.
The committee did note that the former Chancellor had caused "damage to the party" and that a "clear distancing" from the Russian leader would be "desirable".
"The arbitration commission considers that the area of personal friendships is part of the private life," it added.
Schröder’s longstanding connections to the Russian state energy sector after Russia invaded Ukraine have left his political standing in tatters.
He has shrugged off the pressure from party officials and most recently met with Putin on a visit to Moscow in late July.
A total of 17 party members had applied to expel the former Chancellor from the SPD. The decision not to remove Schröder can still be appealed.
The 78-year-old served as chancellor from 1998 to 2005 and was the Social Democrats’ leader from 1999 to 2004.
In May, German lawmakers agreed to shut down Schröder’s taxpayer-funded office, while he also lost the title of honorary citizen of Hannover.
The former German Chancellor also left the board of the Russian oil company Rosneft and said he had given up plans to join the board of the gas giant Gazprom.
Schröder also remains under threat of sanctions by MEPs in Strasbourg.